As predicted, and as I’ve been communicating to you, the City of Tucson Mayor and Council voted unanimously to enact increased water rates for those living outside of any city’s limits in unincorporated Pima County during its June 22nd meeting. Apparently, residents who get their water from another source or reside within a city or town’s jurisdiction will not be subject to the “differential water rates” being imposed by the City of Tucson.

But for tens of thousands of other Pima County residents, water bills will begin increasing by December 1, 2021. What will those customers of Tucson Water be paying for with those increased water fees?

There appears to be a whole host of plans that the city has in mind for its use, with the estimated almost $10 Million windfall of excess billing revenues it will receive, thanks to county residents.

First on their list, your larger payments to Tucson Water will go toward “infrastructure and maintenance upgrades to enhance water delivery”. Hmm. Isn’t that what a utility is supposed to be doing on an on-going basis anyway? If you own a heavily-utilized bridge, aren’t you supposed to continually take care of it?

The city’s next wish-list item for spending your water money is for, “climate resiliency and water sustainability and for watering trees”. It’s tough to choose where to start on this one. Let’s try to begin with fathoming your water and water money being used to water trees?

And finally, the third item the city wants to pursue – like a kid in a candy store – is to provide “financial resiliency in the form of low-income programs and paying off delinquent water accounts”. This means, not only will you be paying more for your own water, you will be paying for someone else’s water, too, as well as other financially-subsidized social equity programs for city residents.

Water conservation? Why would anyone be concerned about conserving water when they know someone else will be paying for it?

There are a number of noteworthy facts mayor and council should have considered. First, the City of Tucson’s own Citizens Water Advisory Committee advised them that it “recommends against adopting differential water rates”, citing a lack of “legitimate basis” for doing so.

Second, the city attorney has clearly stated that enacting differential water rates, “conflict with state statutes and Tucson’s own city codes”.

And third, the Tucson City Attorney’s Office goes even further to declare that any water rate increases, “should be based on costs of providing water” and “be analyzed by a cost of service study before final adoption”. No cost of service study has ever been conducted during this process, yet that glaring omission matters not to the Tucson City Council.

No cost of service study matters, particularly to the loudest proponent for raising water rates, Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham. Like much of what Mr. Cunningham says, I don’t quite understand what he means when he said during the June 22 Tucson City Council meeting, “This has always been a policy decision for me. We’re the ones serving you water. We’re the ones who backstop the utility.” “Policy decision” without a cost of service study? “Backstop” – what does that mean?

It’s evident that the City of Tucson has deliberately ignited a regional battle and that there seems to be no turning back at this point, if ever. You can bet that we in Pima County government who voted to discourage the city from doing this, and many others, are analyzing the numerous options to fight this injustice. It’s just a matter of which one will be the most effective, decisive action to deploy against the City of Tucson.

As I’ve said before, imposing these differential water rates is just a piece of a larger effort on the part of the city to force its will on all of us in other regional issues, such as governance, transportation, infrastructure, and much more.

It is obvious that Tucson has many more tricks up its sleeve, all designed to break down regional partnerships and collaboration. If ever there was a reason to fight annexation into the City of Tucson or to think twice about spending your dollars in Tucson – which will provide tax revenue for the City’s fiscal “priorities” – differential water rates is that reason.

About author View all posts

Steve Christy